JFF to retain Donaldson's assistants; new Girlz Head coach to be named shortly

By October 11, 2023
(from left) former Reggae Girlz Head coach Lorne Donaldson, Xavier Gilbert, Laura Thomas, Will Hitzelberger and Ak Lakhani. (from left) former Reggae Girlz Head coach Lorne Donaldson, Xavier Gilbert, Laura Thomas, Will Hitzelberger and Ak Lakhani.

SportsMax.TV has been reliably informed that the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) intends to retain members of the senior Reggae Girlz technical staff to work with the incoming Head coach, who is expected to be named on Friday.

Xavier Gilbert, Ak Lakhani and Laura Thomas, who were all assistants to former Head coach Lorne Donaldson, are said to be in discussion with the JFF, but their involvement is pending the agreement of terms on a new contract. It is uncertain if fitness coach Will Hitzelberger and goalkeeper Alyssa Whitehead have also been engaged.

Their previous contracts expired on September 30, along with Donaldson’s, but the JFF hierarchy opted not to renew the outspoken coach’s contract.

A source close to the situation revealed that the move to retain Gilbert, Lakhani and Thomas, is for familiarity purposes, given the success they had with the Girlz under Donaldson’s leadership.

Donaldson and his assistants, who were appointed in 2022, led the Reggae Girlz to a second-consecutive FIFA Women’s World Cup. At the tournament jointly hosted by Australia and New Zealand, they had an historic run to the round of 16, after goalless results with France and Brazil, and victory over Panama in the group stage.

The Reggae Girlz eventually bowed out following a 0-1 loss to Colombia.

In their most recent fixtures, the Reggae Girlz suffered back-to-back losses to Canada in a failed bid to qualify for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, but the progress the team has made over the past year, is without question.

“They (the assistant coaches) are good man. I don’t think they (JFF hierarchy) will be letting anyone else go, it was just Donaldson. I am almost 90 percent certain that the assistants will stay on,” a source who requested anonymity shared.

Another interesting development is the fact that Jonathan Morgan, who found favour with the JFF Technical Committee in the past, is among those shortlisted for the Girlz top job.

Morgan was expected to take the reins in 2022, but later received an offer from Burnley Women’s team and opted out of the race, which resulted in Donaldson taking charge.

Now back, the Englishman is said to be facing stiff competition from two other overseas coaches, both females, who were not named.

It is understood that all three have already been interviewed, with the Technical Committee expected to make a recommendation to the Board of Directors in short order.

The 37th-ranked Reggae Girlz will be back in action for Concacaf Women’s Gold Cup qualification in less than two weeks, as they are scheduled to visit Panama on October 25, before returning home to face Guatemala on October 29.

They will then host Panama on November 29 and close away to Guatemala on December 3.

Sherdon Cowan

Sherdon Cowan is a five-time award-winning journalist with 10 years' experience covering sports.

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